No one expects parenting teens to be easy, and no one expects the parents of teens to be perfect. Yet parents are kids’ first and foremost influence, and can have the biggest effect on whether a child engages in drug abuse and addiction.
If you are the parent of teenagers, you may think that they are all about what their peers are doing, but the truth is that you have substantial influence. Children who have strong relationships with parents are less likely to get caught up in drug abuse and addiction. What does “strong relationships” mean? Here are a few things to know about parental responsibility and teen drug use.
Tips for Helping Prevent Drug Abuse and Addiction
Perhaps the most important single thing you can do as a parent is to take a genuine interest in what is going on in your child’s life. You do not have to know every detail, or micromanage them, but support their positive activities and spend time with them, even if it is while doing ordinary things like preparing dinner. Though it is hard to talk to kids about drugs, help is available. In fact, you can download age-appropriate guidelines for precisely this task.
Sometimes, you have to be tough with your children. They need to know what the boundaries are and when it is appropriate to renegotiate those boundaries as they mature. Consistency is essential. Making threats and not following through wastes time and frustrates everyone involved.
While you should not (and probably cannot) dictate who your child’s friends are, you need to know who they hang out with, and you need to be prepared to intervene if they fall in with a bad group. This can be incredibly hard, but it can make the difference in whether your kids fall prey to drug abuse and addiction.
Common Mistakes Parents Make
Every parent makes mistakes, so do not beat yourself up if you do not do everything right every time. Knowing about common mistakes can help you avoid them. Here are some of the most common mistakes parents make:
- Failing to make parental expectations clear
- Ignoring signs of mental health problems
- Assuming that “experimenting” with drugs is no big deal
- Lying about a parent’s own prior drug use
- Not modeling the behaviors expected of children
- Not knowing drug abuse and addiction risk factors
- Ignoring a family history of substance abuse
- Ignoring major changes in a child
- Putting off getting help in hopes it will get better spontaneously
Arm Yourself with Knowledge
You have to know the facts when you talk to your teen about drugs, so take the time to learn them. In 2015, nearly 60 percent of 12th graders admitted to having used alcohol, and more than one-third admitted to having used marijuana. Almost 8 percent said they had used prescription stimulants, and more than 5 percent said they had used prescription painkillers.
The good news is that most teens do not progress to addiction after trying drugs, but there are no guarantees. Some people are genetically more prone to drug addiction than others, and that is one reason it is important to understand any family history of addiction.
It is also important to understand where teens obtain drugs. The answer is, they can obtain drugs just about anywhere they like to hang out, including school and home (if a parent’s prescription drugs are not locked up, for example).
Getting Help for Your Teen
If you see warning signs of drug abuse and addiction in your teen, do not wait to see if they stop. The first step to getting help is talking to teens about it, as soon as possible. Let them know you love them regardless, and you expect them to be honest with you. If you have any doubt whether their drug use was a “one time” thing, seek medical advice. You can start with your family doctor, or you can schedule an appointment at a local mental health center.
With the help of a doctor or mental health professional, you can determine whether therapy is necessary, or whether the problem is serious enough for inpatient treatment. If your child needs treatment, it does not mean that you failed as a parent.